I don't always start an abstract painting by thinking about its meaning. I start with color, pattern, and shapes that I find intriguing. My intention is to explore. I play with the paint and move it around on a smooth wood panel with a variety of tools. Sometimes inspiration comes from music, or a poem, or just a feeling in my heart. Sometimes the feeling changes and I go in another direction.
The minute the first mark is made, the "conversation" is begun. What I mean by conversation is the back and forth between me and the painting. If brush strokes were words, most of mine would be what if? Curiosity makes for an interesting conversation, where new ground can be explored. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who thinks they know it all...they are not curious, they have all the facts? That can kill a painting in the same way it can kill a conversation because there is no room for discovery.
Staying curious and willing to experiment means that you are open to possibilities. I think the Zen term for this is "beginner's mind." Of course, beginners make a lot of mistakes. Ah, mistakes...what an interesting word. It suggests a thing that we shouldn't have done, a turn that we shouldn't have taken. I don't think so. In fact, I think mistakes are necessary.
They are the stepping stones on the path to success, right? We build on them. We learn from them. In my painting, the wrong turns, or mistakes are what make the finished product interesting. Can you see the layers of shapes and forms that make up a sort of "history" in this image?
If I knew from the start exactly what I wanted to paint, there would be none of this. No surprises, no discovery.
During the process of painting, and sometimes after the work is complete, I can step back and find meaning in the work. I see how shapes or patterns might represent intangible concepts, such as thoughts or emotions. These may mean one thing to me, and yet another to you. There is no right or wrong. Sometimes, there is just a "feeling." When you listen to beautiful music, you don't ask what it means, you just let it wash over you. These paintings only require an open mind - simply enter the painting and see where it takes you. Maybe it doesn't need words...